Extraordinary Form Second to Last Sunday of the Year
November 18th, 2012
The most persecuted religion today
“You became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit, so that you became a model for all the believers” (1 Thess 1:6).
St. Paul indicates in our first reading that he who “receives the word,” that is, he who believes, does so in great affliction, but also with joy from the Holy Spirit. In this fallen world, faith is always persecuted.
In 2010, Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone stated that Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world today. Two weeks ago German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the same thing.
In India, for example, radical Hindu groups have been burning Christian churches and homes for the last ten years. In Nigeria last month the Muslim group Boko Haram drove a truck packed with explosives into St. Rita’s church during Mass, killing eight. In Canada, the Education Minister of Ontario declared October 10 that the province’s Catholic schools may not teach students that abortion is wrong. In 2005, a Pastor in Alberta faced a jail sentence for publishing letters critical of homosexual conduct. In Sweden, a Pentecostal pastor was sentenced to one month in prison for citing Biblical references that condemn homosexual acts. In Iraq, 72 Christian churches have been attacked or bombed since June, 2004. In the USA, the Church faces crippling penalties if it does not fund procedures that violate its conscience. In the recent words of Cardinal George, “This is the first time in the history of the United States that a presidential administration has purposely tried to interfere in the internal working of the Catholic Church, playing one group off against another for political gain.”
A Mustard Seed and a Bit of Yeast
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed,” (Mt. 13:31).
And yet, Jesus promised Peter and all Christians that the jaws of death would not prevail against the Church. In the Gospel today, Jesus portrays the Kingdom of Heaven, which on earth is the Church he founded, both as a “mustard seed” and as a “bit of yeast.”
First, let us consider the Mustard Seed: it is so small as to be almost invisible to the unaided eye. In the year 33AD, practically no one in the Roman Empire noticed the routine execution of a Jewish criminal, with his mother standing by. But from this routine event poured forth an infinite volume of divine love. The Church welled forth from this crucifixion, and she flourished, watered by the blood of her martyrs. As difficult as it is to accept the results of the national election two weeks ago, I can guarantee you that it was providential. The adversity to come will water the growth of the Church. We can only hope that now it is our chance to be saints and martyrs. It is our turn to suffer for the sake of the Name. If the coming persecution would not be for our good and the greater glory of God, he would not have permitted it. So none of us should fret, or get depressed, and certainly no one should give into fear. God is ever with us.
Let us also consider the bit of yeast. Even tinier than a mustard seed, one microscopic spore of yeast will swell until it permeates an entire loaf of bread. So the Church expands until it fills the entire earth. Christ’s Church is indefectible. No one can destroy it, and it will always triumph in the end.
The Year of Faith
In this Year of Faith, we must have confidence in the Word of God which has been entrusted to us. We cannot be so short-sighted as to concede defeat to the present secularization. The Church will go one growing, despite any attempts to destroy her. We must keep the faith. We must live the faith. We must insist on the faith. In the words of Cardinal George, secularism is on the “wrong side of history.” Secularism’s Culture of Death cannot sustain itself any more than atheistic communism could sustain itself. It will collapse, and then the world will turn back to the Church, to those of us who have kept the faith, who have lived the faith, who have insisted on the faith.
Let us turn to Our Lady, who kept her faith when all was lost, at the foot of the cross. She will stand by us, if we stand by the Cross. I want to conclude with a prayer to Our Holy Mother composed by Mother Teresa:
Mary, Mother of Jesus, give me your heart, so beautiful, so pure, so immaculate, so full of humility, that I may receive Jesus in the Bread of Life, love Him as you loved Him, and serve Him as you served Him. Amen.